The moment I began to realise that he didn’t really love me was when I left the vicarage with two broken ribs. The breakthrough that I needed to report him came when I heard that he had set up a young church group, and I saw a photo of him with a group of kids, some of whom were the younger sisters of my high school friends.
Reporting him was difficult, as I felt guilty because he had given me opportunities to improve some areas of my life and had supported me in that. I felt alone when the majority of the people at that church stopped talking to me (including the mothers and grandmothers of those young children), wishing that I had just kept silent.
At first this depressed me. But I had another breakthrough in therapy when I understood that the people who had stayed with me were the ones who truly loved me, and whilst it was ok to mourn the loss of the relationships I no longer had, they didn’t truly care for me anyway. It’s better to let those kinds of people go, and enjoy the relationships of the fewer in number but the greater in strength and caringness.
Responding to the Daily Prompt Breakthrough
Sometimes I chastise myself for the times when I believed the façade. That he cared for me, that he was a man in pain who needed my help. He was a completely different person when he was in church; he was charismatic, he was strong, he was passionate. But sometimes when we were alone he collapsed, he was weak, he cried, he felt alone – except for when I was there. I believed for a time that I was the only one who could help him, because that was what he told me. I was taken in by the façade because I so desperately craved a father in my life, and to begin with that is what he was. In time his perfectly formed mask began to crack and glimmers of lust for me and for power came through. I clung to the façade as I clung to who I thought he was, someone who cared for me. A couple of years later I finally realised the truth. It’s been two and a half years, and the investigation is still ongoing. His public façade continues, but I see the true man behind the mask.
In response to The Daily Prompt Façade.
One of the questions I am most often asked is why I didn’t say anything at the time. Why did I pretend that I was ok? Why did I pretend that nothing was wrong? There are many answers to that question. I felt ashamed. I was afraid of losing all my friends at church, because I thought that if I spoke out about the priest that abused me that they would call me a liar, or wish I’d just kept it quiet. I was afraid of hurting the people who thought they knew him. I was afraid of having to recount what happened to the police and to others. I was afraid of being asked what I wore, and if I misled him. I was afraid that if I tried to ask for help that the priest would hurt me more than he already had.
I stopped pretending, and almost all of my fears came true. But I know that I have helped protect others who could have been hurt by him. I know now who my real friends are. I know that I don’t need to pretend anymore.
In response to The Daily Prompt Pretend
I went back to one of the places I was abused recently.
I’m struggling today. I’m getting a lot of “flashes”, thinking of hurting myself, thinking that I can’t fix this, that it is always going to hurt me in a way which at times will seem unbearable.
I want to bleed or to burn, but I don’t want to leave a mark that other people will see. I want to quiet the storm in my head, in my heart, in my body, I want to breathe without feeling dizzy, to be able to concentrate on something other than the need to fight off the pain.
I want it to stop now.
Sexual healing is very profound work. It takes great courage to work through problems caused by the abuse. Your body may feel like a battleground over which you fight ghosts who have great power, reclaiming territory which is your birthright.
– Miriam Smolover, Therapist
It’s been so long but the process is still going. It’s been nearly two years but it’s not over yet. The police ruled that there was insufficient evidence, but now the Church have to decide whether to take it to tribunal, and it’s taken nine months for them to decide to examine the case at all. I can’t believe how long it is taking. It feels like the Church law deliberately exists to try and exhaust the victim into giving up. But I won’t. I do wish it was over though.
It’s strangely conflicting how sometimes I desperately want people to ask me how I am, yet at other times it seems stupid for someone to ask because, what I am really going to say? I think that sometimes I find the progress I have made hard, because sometimes it just feels like if I do stop holding it together, even for a couple of hours, it’s like I’m taking steps backwards instead of forwards. But sometimes it just hurts, and the feelings I used to have constantly, of guilt or of a missing something, squeeze through and rattle my insides. It doesn’t happen so often anymore, but I don’t know what to do with those feelings when they do. I don’t know what feelings are ok and which aren’t, which are acceptable and which need to be changed. I suppose there’s a sense in which, sometimes, the whole process of having my thought patterns changed over the years, by the priest and more recently by therapy, is confusing, and I forget what’s right and wrong, or what’s good and bad, what’s helpful and unhelpful. In those moments I feel least human and most alien, like I’m not sure who I am.
I think what has hurt the most throughout all this so far is that it appears that all the people that knew me and the man involved have decided not to take sides. There is an extent to which I really understand why. But I also feel quite constantly isolated and almost ashamed, having been so outcast by the people I once called a family. Is it reasonable for me to wish that at least one of them would have called instantly and asked me if I was ok? If just one of them believed in me and wanted to support me?
Maybe it’s wrong for me to have wanted at least some of my closed friends there to be there for me, but I can’t help feeling that I wish they did, instead of choosing to remain neutral throughout all of this.
Guilt creeps up on me and tries to grow in my mind, whispering that I am going to ruin the life of a man I believed I loved, that I cared about. Whispers that I have caused too much pain. The creeping guilt is so crippling. Debilitating. It makes it difficult to breathe. It feels sort of like my head is struggling to stay above water, heavy and dizzy, choking.
I know that I am doing the right thing by talking. I know, rationally, that I am not in the wrong. But a crippling, creeping guilt is difficult to shake. I have certainly shaken it to an extent or I would even have thought of talking about it and reporting him, and I am happy that I have moved forward so much and have an independent life. But it is still crippling. It still makes it harder for me to engage in intimate relationships. It still keeps me awake sometimes. It still makes me feel like I’m drowning sometimes.
I don’t know if it will ever go away. But it is reduced somehow. I do wish, though, that I knew a quicker way to stop feeling so crippled. I want to live a life freer of this. Some days and some nights are just hard.
National UK Safeguarding Number: 0207 467 5189 Mon-Fri 09-12:30
I called the above number this morning and by the afternoon the Safeguarding worker of the diocese in which my priest lives had phoned me, discussed the process with me, sent me her apologies and condolences for a difficult time and thanked me for calling. I was not required to give names at this point, and was told I would be contacted again soon to arrange a time for us to meet in person when I visit the area in the Easter break so that I can make my report.
So far the outline of the process I have looks like this:
- Talk to the Safeguarding representative and make my report
- If it is a criminal offence (it is), the police also come in and talk to me, at which point he is arrested
- An announcement is made to the congregation by the diocese in collaboration with the police
- He is almost certainly immediately suspended
Feeling good with more information and another step forward.
Talked over the positives and negatives of people’s potential responses today, which really helped me process and think about what was going to happen. I was starting to get scared – I wouldn’t call it cold feet because I didn’t want to actually run away and I still maintained the conviction to carry the reporting forward, but I was getting scared thinking about the scale of impact my reporting would have.
I thought about the various people the news would hit especially hard, thinking about the negative feelings of shock and guilt, as well as the positives of closure and understanding. I have, after all, been absent from their lives for nearly a year now. I have spent only a handful of weeks with family and close friends back where the Church is and they are, and it will be good when they understand why I have been away, that I did not run away from them, that I still love them.
Positives and negatives. Worth thinking about. The negatives are hard yes, but the positives help one move forward and maintain strength.